Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dreamliner is a Dream - When Not Trying to Work

What will come first, the new laptop with a smaller back-to-front footprint, or the economy airline seat that does not shove the laptop into one’s belly when the person in the seat ahead decides to recline?

I ask this question having just flown on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and I can report this old issue on the world’s newest airplane is not resolved.

I love my Lenovo Thinkpad X220 convertible laptop for a thousand reasons; it is sturdy and reliable, relatively fast and sports a wifi receiver that I swear can pick up a signal from Mars. That my Lenovo is convertible, means yep, it goes top down - the screen pivots around and folds across the keyboard to become a tablet. 

With the greatest excitement, I boarded Japan Airlines Flight 007 Boston to Tokyo on Tuesday. I took a 3:20 a.m. Amtrak train just to fly from this airport on this airplane

Despite my best intentions, I still had a few assignments to file for the Times, (Sorry, Phyllis!) and I set out to use my 13 hours in the air getting those stories written.

What’s remarkable about this remarkable airplane - and this is going to be my one complaint, I promise - is that Boeing, JAL or the seat manufacturer Recaro I’m not sure where to pin the blame, well none of them have solved the squabble over seat reclining real estate. Each time the passenger seated ahead of me, pushed back his seat, I raced to lower the screen of my laptop until it was practically folded over my hands and the front end of my laptop was knifed into my belly.

Hey, maybe it is my problem. I could use an iPad. Not. Certainly a significant portion of the traveling public still works on conventional laptops. Why oh why can’t those clever aircraft interiors engineers come up with a solution to this front-to-back seat space dilemma?

Meantime, I won’t let my fabulous experience on the Dreamliner focus on a complaint.   More than compensating for my laptop problem was the view through those uniquely Dreamliner windows, big enough and high enough to keep me entertained throughout the flight.
Looks like night, but it is daytime out there.

I confess, I’m the passenger who doesn’t want to shut the shades on long-haul flights, though I recognize that other travelers want it dark so they can sleep. What Boeing has done suits both of us.  Rather than darken the cabin with pull down shades it has created glass that darkens giving the appearance of blue night and the best thing about that is you can still see outside.  

So a 13 hour flight that departs westward at 1:00pm and arrives in Tokyo at 3:00pm the following day is flown entirely in daylight but you would not have known it on JAL Flight 007. Brilliant.

The blue of the windows makes a nice interior effect. 

JAL’s choice of cheery striped seat covers with adjustable head rests, its neutral-toned business class seats and furnishings, along with the pass-through bulkhead between the economy and premium cabins all score points for keeping the Dreamliner feeling open and expansive. 

I was not allowed a visit to the cockpit, but I photographed it in 2011 when the 787 visited Addis Ababa and Dreamliner customer EthiopianAirlines.  

This is Boeing's B787 on its world tour in 2011

From my window seat in row 48 on JAL Flight 007, I had an excellent view of the right half of the Dreamliner’s 197 foot wingspan. Those wings - broad at the root and tapering to a delicate raked tip can flex about 25 feet vertically. Check out this photo from Boeing of the wing flex test.

Wings of the B787 flexing upwards during a test. Photo courtesy of Boeing.

This wing really is something to see when all of its working parts are on display during takeoff, on approach and landing. At times like that, and with my laptop stowed, I’m happy there’s nothing to distract me from the dreamy experience of flying on the 787. 

How pretty is that?

Cleaning crews arrive to ready JA825J for its next flight.


Oussama's Take said...

Well, I use an HP Mini,it can handle reclining seats and leaves enough space on the table for a cup of coffee (a dangerous undertaking if you are not careful). The processing and speed can be infuriating at times but on a 13 hours flight, who cares?

I guess the B787 wing flexes as much as the B777 if not more. It is amazing how flexible are Boeing's newer wing designs.

Sabah said...

You make flying, which I don't particularly enjoy, sounds interesting, and even fun!! that is a reflection of your interesting mind :) good job my friend

Rick Cooper said...

I'm not sure I'll ever get use to a 25' wing flex comming from the old school that says "birds flap their wings to fly not airplanes".

Other than the seatback problem, it sounds like the 787 really is a "Dreamliner".